- Associated Press - Saturday, June 7, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Phil Hughes has been a better pitcher this season, freed from homer-friendly Yankee Stadium in his first season with the Minnesota Twins.

Hughes looked the way he did in his New York days on Friday night against the Houston Astros in his first turn after beating his former team.

Minnesota’s free-agent addition allowed three home runs in his new home ballpark, spacious Target Field, as the free-swinging Astros topped the Twins 5-4.

Rookie power source George Springer hit his 11th homer to break the game open in the sixth inning, and Houston got early solo home runs from Marwin Gonzalez and Matt Dominguez to snap Hughes’ six-game winning streak.

“I didn’t have my best fastball tonight and just wasn’t making adjustments the way I had before,” Hughes said. “I didn’t recognize it, really, early enough to make some better pitches with the two-seamer or cutter, and kept trying to generate extra velocity and came out of my mechanics just a little bit and left some balls over the plate. You can live with the two solo homers through five, and then the sixth inning obviously we kind of give the game away right there, so that was tough.”

Hughes (6-2) gave up a season-high five runs on six hits while striking out seven.

Danny Santana hit his first career home run, a two-run shot in the seventh inning off reliever Tony Sipp as the Twins tried to rally late.

After the start was delayed 1 hour, 21 minutes, by a storm that never arrived, Dallas Keuchel (7-3) limited Minnesota to five hits over six scoreless innings and struck out six.

Chad Qualls pitched around a two-out throwing error by Dominguez in the ninth to earn his seventh save in eight chances.

“Another night where we gave up three home runs and that’s pretty much the ballgame offensively for them,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said, noting Milwaukee’s three homers in beating Minnesota on Thursday night.

Hughes was coming off a satisfying return to Yankee Stadium on Sunday when he beat his former club with eight strong innings. Away from the short right porch in the Bronx, Hughes has kept the ball in the yard with the Twins this season and entered Friday having allowed just two homers in his previous 64 1-3 innings.

This was the same Hughes who had served up 59 home runs in his final two seasons with New York, tied for third-most in the majors during that span.

But he was bitten by the long ball Friday against the young, aggressive Astros.

Springer struck out in each of his first two at-bats against Hughes before reaching low and outside to drive a pitch an estimated 402 feet into the opposite-field stands.

“I don’t think he had his best stuff tonight, and for sure some of those swings they put on the ball, the opposite-field home run was a bomb,” Gardenhire said. “That’s a strong young man to be able to drive that ball that far opposite field. (Hughes) missed a little bit. He’s been so good for us, anything he gets up is kind of a, ‘What happened?’ type of thing right now.”

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